We officially have a new series in the WHL Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Saskatoon Blades have forced a Game 6 with a massive 6-3 win in Game 5 at the SaskTel Centre over the Red Deer Rebels.
Earlier this week the Rebels took a 3-0 series lead and looked poised to sweep the Blades. However, Saskatoon rallied to win two straight games in the best-of-seven series.
“Obviously we would have liked to get that game,” said head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“We’ve got to look at some things that we need to improve on. We’re in a good series and we expected a good series. We’ll get better for the next game.”
It was an eventful first period between the two teams.
Blades Tanner Molendyk, who scored the final goal in Wednesday’s contest, picked up where he left off scoring nearly six minutes into the period.
Rebels Kai Uchacz notched his seventh of the postseason converting on a turnover in Saskatoon’s end but less than a minute later Blades Egor Sidorov took the lead at the 11:59 mark.
With just over three minutes left in the opening frame, Uchacz scored his fourth straight goal of the game in front of the net to tie the game 2-2.
Sidorov gave the Blades the lead once again at the 18:03 mark, which forced the Rebels coaching staff to make a goaltending change.
Rebels goaltender Chase Coward made his first appearance in the 2023 postseason coming in for Kyle Kelsey who started all 10 playoff games for Red Deer so far.
Coward appeared in just four games since his return to the Rebels late in the regular season. During that time he posted a 2.98 GAA and a .902 save percentage. He also started for the Rebels in the 2022 playoffs contributing a 2.24 GAA and a .925 save percentage.
Early in the second period forward Ollie Josephson tied the game just a minute and a half into the frame 3-3. The rookie found the loose puck in front of the net and fired it into the back of the net.
No one scored for most of the period until the Blades retook the lead on the powerplay with less than 30 seconds left.
In the third period, the Rebels needed a big 20 minutes in order to advance but the tough challenge got even harder when Jayden Wiens at the 5:41 mark put the Blades up 5-3.
Molendyk potted his second of the game and his third in two straight games midway through the third to give the Blades a commanding 6-3 lead.
Throughout the game, the Rebels struggled on special teams’ play failing to score on all three powerplay attempts and giving up three powerplay goals on the penalty kill.
Konowalchuk said it’s been a problem the last few games for his team.
“They’ve beat us in that area so we need to stay out of the box… There was just too many penalties,” he said.
In the absence of an injured Kalan Lind, forward Ryker Singer made his way into the lineup. In Game 4 Lind was taken off the ice on a stretcher after Blades Justin Lies made direct contact with Lind’s head when he followed through with a hit.
Lies had been suspended by the WHL but they have yet to say for how long and so far, the Rebels have not given a timetable for his return.
Game 6 will be back at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Sunday at 2 p.m. where the Rebels will look to advance to the third round. If they lose, Game 7 will be back in Saskatoon on Tuesday.
“We’ve just got to come home and focus on winning one game,” Konowalchuk added.